National City Corp. is keeping its name after all.
Although the Cleveland-based company said it seriously considered changing it because of a pending acquisition of First of America Bank Corp., National City followed the custom of favoring the buyer.
"Both names tested well, but ours tested slightly better," Daniel Shingler, a spokesman for $55 billion-asset National City, said last week when the decision was disclosed.
In December, after they announced the $7 billion deal with Kalamazoo, Mich.-based First of America, National City officials said they would study their options. Marketers from both companies conducted focus-group interviews in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Kalamazoo, and Lansing, Mich.
National City, more than twice the size of First of America, had greater brand recognition, particularly among midsize business customers, the company said.
"National City ranked slightly higher than FOA in a comparison of positive attributes in respective home markets," said a company statement. It also said there would be a cost advantage in sticking with the National City name after the deal closes in the second quarter.
"I think everybody sensed that the National City signs would be on the First of America branches five minutes after the deal closed," said Michael Moran, an analyst with Roney & Co. of Detroit.
"First of America had a strong community bank focus in the Midwest, and the name played very well for them," Mr. Moran said. "But you have to assume National City wants to further its brand identity."
"Neither name is geographically restrictive, but I suppose a problem with both names is they're not unique," said Joseph Duwan, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods Inc. "There are a number of variations of First and National."
"Customers want the great banking services we provide regardless of the name we choose," said National City chairman and chief executive officer David A. Daberko. He vowed that both companies' "dedication to service will not change."
National City could run into a problem in at least two markets that it has yet to enter, where there are companies with similar names: National City Bancshares of Evansville, Ind., and National City Bancorp. of Minneapolis.